News and Events
Coming up on Saturday, September 26th CareDx is hosting the Allocare Transplant Festival, a fun, interactive, virtual event meant to bring together members of the transplant community during this difficult period. The event will take place from 12 – 3 p.m. ET and will feature many different activities with guests from all over the transplant community.
The festival has a full agenda of events and activities, as well as multiple contests for attendees to participate in before and during the festival! Here is a full list of the live festival agenda, as well as the pre-event contests:
Pre-Event Contests (submissions due by September 19th)
- Twitter “My Transplant Story” In 280 characters or less, tell us how the gift of organ donation changed your life for a chance to win some great prizes!
- Favorite Recipe Contest Share your go-to recipe for a chance to win a prize and have your recipe demonstrated by our guest celebrity chef!
- Talent Show entries Submit a video of your special talent! Winners will be revealed during the festival.
- Transplant Community Photo Wall Mosaic Submit a photo and be a part of the Photo Wall Mosaic that will be presented live by Peter Maag
To enter, click on the registration link below!
Live Festival Agenda
- Community Trivia Challenge Host: Amanda Nicastro – comedian and organ donor
- Talent Show Judges: Angelica Hale, America’s Got Talent runner up and kidney transplant recipient; Dorry Segev, transplant surgeon at JHU; and Merle Zuel, MerleJam founder and heart transplant recipient
- Cooking Demonstration Celebrity chef will demonstrate a version of a winning recipe, with three home chefs joining in live
- The Engaged Patient Patient Panel moderated by Osama Gaber, transplant surgeon at Houston Methodist and incoming ASTS president
- Transplant Life with Sports and Fitness Professional Athlete Panel with David Ayres, Emergency Goalie Carolina Hurricanes and transplant recipient; John Brockington, NFL – Packers and transplant recipient; and Sean Elliot, NBA – Spurs and transplant recipient.
- My Transplant Story Winners
- Photo Wall Mosaic Reveal Presented by Peter Maag
- Get Moving: Short home workout clips with professional transplant athletes
So what is CareDx? CareDx is a transplant focused company centered around providing healthcare solutions for transplant patients and caregivers both pre- and post- transplant journey. It is committed to improving transplant patient outcomes through innovative testing and is the leading partner in medicine for transplant patients.
Gift of Life Howie’s House is so excited to be partnering with CareDx for this special event. For more information and where to register, visit this website: https://bit.ly/caredxregistration
We hope to see you there!
Sunny skies and great friends coming together to support transplant families made this year’s Kidney Open Golf Outing a huge success! Thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to raise over $116,000 for Gift of Life Howie’s House!
The funds raised at this year’s Golf Outing will help us subsidize the cost of staying at the Howie’s House to keep our room fees low, and cover the costs of families who cannot afford to pay the nightly fee, making sure we never have to turn away a family due to inability to pay.
This year’s outing looked a little different than years prior, as we implemented many health and safety guidelines throughout the day and adapted the event to limit large social gatherings. Despite the obstacles, we were still able to raise much-needed funds for the Howie’s House so we can continue to support our mission of providing a “home away from home” for families undergoing the transplant journey.
As our guest speaker and past Howie’s House guest, Denise Hobbie, said during the event, “On a very tough and arduous journey, the Gift of Life Howie’s House was truly a welcome respite to me and my family.”
Whether you joined us out on the course, sponsored part of the outing, or volunteered to support our staff, we thank you for helping us provide for families like Denise’s.
We hope that you will join us next year for our 17th Annual Kidney Golf Outing!
We’d like to give a special thank you to all of our sponsors of this event! Thanks to your support, our mission to support transplant families remains strong.
2020 Kidney Open Sponsors
Main Line Health
Shot Gun Start and Dinner
Bridge to Life, Ltd
Cornerstone Asset Management
Nora – Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance
Quick Courier Service
Independence Blue Cross
Lions Eye Bank of the Delaware Valley
Organ Recovery Systems, INC.
Quick Specialized Healthcare Logistics
Sinnott Executive Consulting
Highmark Blue Cross Shield Delaware
Howard M. Nathan
Community Tissues Service
Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP
Course Refreshment Stations
Lincoln Financial Group
Warner Benefits / HRAdministrators
Lincoln Financial Group
Einstein Healthcare Network
Gillespie Electric, Inc.
Closest to the Pin Contest
The Arthur Jackson Co.
Longest Drive Contest
Wye Realty Advisors
Straightest Drive Contest
Transplant Alliance Foundation
Hole-In-One Car Sponsor
Scott Honda of West Chester
Affinity Wealth Management
Dr. Linda Barrasse
C Change Surgical
Gallagher Benefit Services
Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz & O’Neill
Walker Lodge #306
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows New Jersey (IOOFNJ) has been a longtime supporter of the Howie’s House mission.
Former grandmaster, late heart transplant recipient and wonderful friend Harold Delhagen connected our two missions many years ago, and since, IOOFNJ has made a real difference in the lives of transplant families.
They supported our initial capital campaign to help build the Howie’s House and open our doors by underwriting one of our guest rooms. They’ve helped transplant families who couldn’t afford our nightly fee with a contribution to our Adopt-A-Family program. Additionally, IOOFNJ has volunteered on many occasions in our kitchen to provide warm, home-cooked meals to our guests in the evenings as part of our Home Cook Heroes program.
Most recently, they generously committed to a multi-year sponsorship of our shuttle program to help bring transplant patients and their family members back and forth from Philadelphia hospitals and the Howie’s House.
This contribution to our mission helps provide a much-needed service to our guests so they don’t have to navigate an unfamiliar city alone or pay expensive parking fees while caring for a loved one undergoing the transplant process.
In 2019 alone, their support helped us travel over 16,000 miles to provide more than 1,100 trips to and from Philadelphia hospitals and the Howie’s House!
IOOFNJ is an organization based on the foundations of Friendship, Love and Truth, and seeks to make our world a better one to live in through charitable work on various projects in their community.
We are so grateful for their support and look forward to serving transplant families with them in the future!
Theresa had considered herself knowledgeable about organ and tissue donation after seeing how it worked as a respiratory therapist, but when her co-worker’s granddaughter passed away and became an organ donor, she was inspired to learn more about the process.
After learning about the Howie’s House through a Gift of Life presentation, she and her family held a fundraiser to support our mission to care for transplant families. They also signed up to participate in our Home Cook Heroes program under the team name “Team Shea” as a tribute to her co-worker’s granddaughter.
“We had such a great time cooking meals for these families…and we’ve been volunteering ever since!” Theresa says.
Since her team’s initial visit in 2017, they’ve been back several times and have earned an All-Stars a plate on our wall.
Joining Theresa in our kitchen are her children and her grandkids. They prepare comforting meals like shepherd’s pie and meatballs and ziti. Sometimes they serve fun, interactive meals like “Walk-Around Tacos” where guests can create their own taco salads in a Frito’s bag.
Along with dinner, Team Shea brings games and gives guests a chance to win items like puzzle books, decks of cards, paperback books, or candy.
“We figured some of these items could make their time waiting a little easier,” Theresa adds. “No matter how bad a day they may have had, the Howie’s House guests are so nice and appreciative. It’s amazing.”
Team Shea also provides dessert!
“One time, a guest asked me if he could bring some extra cookies to his wife in the hospital to cheer her up,” Theresa says. “It amazed me that something Team Shea did—something so little—would make his wife’s time in the hospital a little bit better.”
Volunteers like Team Shea are such a vital part of our mission. Their hard work and dedication in our kitchen help us welcome transplant families home and lessen their burden of worrying about what to eat or where to get it after a long day.
Theresa hopes other people will become inspired to learn about the Howie’s House and its Home Cook Heroes program.
“People should go to the Howie’s House to see what it’s like and donate their time,” she says. “The staff tries so hard to make the guests feel as comfortable as possible. It’s even better than I imagined it to be.”
When Ashley saw a Facebook post about an ill member of her church family in need of a life-saving liver transplant, she couldn’t just scroll past it. “I felt this tug on my heart,” she says. “I felt like this was absolutely something I was supposed to do.”
Ashley was going to see if she could donate a portion of her liver. After testing, she was approved and thankful for the opportunity to save another’s life as a living-donor.
Ashley traveled 800 miles from where she was living in Atlanta, GA to Philadelphia, PA for the surgery. “I did a lot of research about the area and what places were available for living-donors to stay after surgery,” she says. “That’s how I found out about the Howie’s House.”
She checked in to the Howie’s House the night before her surgery and returned when she was discharged from the hospital to recover.
While Ashley was in Philadelphia, she had many people supporting her who were also able to stay at the Howie’s House.
“Another woman from my church, Sheila, became my support person,” Ashley says. “While I was in the hospital, the Howie’s House was an invaluable resource for her. When she was not with me, she was able to come back to shower, rest, and eat. She took advantage of the shuttle during this time and this was a huge blessing to her as she was not quite comfortable taking a taxi by herself.”
“I loved how friendly the staff was, how neat and clean the home was, and that they offered home-cooked meals in the evenings,” Sheila says. “I also loved being able to talk to other families about their loved ones.”
Sheila flew back home when Ashley was discharged. Ashley was able to have others visit the Howie’s House to support her.
“The Howie’s House made the recovery easier. I was able to make friends with others on a transplant journey and this made me feel less alone and truly understood,” Ashley adds. “What they are doing to help transplant families is beautiful and more helpful than they may ever know.”
Ashley successfully became a living-donor and formed a close relationship with her recipient, Denice.
“My recipient and her family consider me family, and she calls me her ‘liver sister.’ Several months after our surgeries, she got to be present when her great-grandson was born. I have so loved seeing how she is living out her second chance at life!”
“I feel very blessed to have a living-donor,” says Denice. “I never feel like I could do enough to show how much she has given back to me. I can go places on my own and not worry about forgetting where I am. Ashley is one of the easiest people to talk to and is always willing to help anyone she can.”
“Before my experience, I knew very little about organ donation or the importance of it,” Ashley says. “Going through this brought me together with others going through similar experiences and it really opened my eyes to how many people are out there waiting for a life-saving transplant. I did have some friends and family who weren’t as comfortable, but I just continued to talk with them about the importance of donating and what the process was going to look like for me. I would want people to know it’s really not as scary as it sounds! I’m three and a half years post-op and I live a normal, healthy life.”
On Thursday, October 3rd, NASCAR driver Joey Gase visited Gift of Life Howie’s House, inviting us to take part in his outreach to educate millions of NASCAR fans worldwide about the life-saving importance of organ and tissue donation.
As part of his Hand Prints of Hope event, 50 members of the transplant community covered the hood of Joey’s racecar with hand prints and special messages which he raced that weekend during the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Dover International Speedway in Dover, DE. NASCAR fans were drawn to the colorful hand prints, messages, and the Gift of Life Donor Program logo in the center.
“It turns a ton of heads at the race track. When people see the hand prints all over the car, they want to come up and ask us about it and we get to tell them,” Gase, 26, said during his speech at the event.
When Joey was 18 years old, his mother, Mary, passed away of a sudden brain aneurism and was an organ donor. She was able to save and transform the lives of 66 people.
“Ever since that day, I wanted to do whatever I could to help raise awareness for organ donation and honor all those affected by it,” he said. “It’s not easy for the recipients, those on the waitlist, or the donor families. There are over 110,000 people on the waitlist nationwide and I want to do whatever I can to get that down to zero.”
We thank Joey and his team at Joey Gase Racing for their advocacy and support, and our friends at Medline for sponsoring this event!
Gift of Life Donor Program and MTF Biologics have partnered together for more than 20 years to bring the gift of life-changing tissues to patients throughout the U.S. and beyond. Now, MTF Biologics is spending time in the Howie’s House kitchen preparing meals for transplant families as part of our Home Cook Heroes program.
“The Howie’s House is one of the best ideas Howard Nathan has ever had,” says Martha Anderson, Executive Vice President of Donor Services at MTF Biologics. She has served on the Gift of Life Donor Program governing board for many years and supported the Howie’s House from its conception. MTF Biologics has underwritten the Howie’s House’s 4th Floor Lounge, and supported its annual Kidney Open Golf Outing and Donor Dash.
Martha recently brought her executive team to visit the Howie’s House and they decided they wanted to get more involved. “It’s also an amazing place for our staff to give back, learn about donation, and continue supporting Gift of Life,” Martha explains. “We also really want to get a plate on the wall!”
The plates on the wall in our kitchen celebrate our Home Cook Heroes All-Stars, groups who volunteer at least 12 times a year (typically about once a month) to help take care of our families.
“The Howie’s House is an amazing home away from home for transplant patients and families. The staff is committed to doing everything they can to take care of them,” Martha says. “Everyone from MTF Biologics who comes down to cook loves it, feels humbled, and appreciates the opportunity to give back.”
Not only does MTF Biologics come in to cook, but sometimes, they provide entertainment as well! MTF Biologic’s resident band, The Bone Tones, led by President and CEO Joe Yaccarino, came to perform during dinner one night and was invited back to play at the Howie’s House’s annual President’s Reception.
“They were really happy to come to the Howie’s House and play,” Martha says.
MTF Biologics is well on their way to joining our Home Cook Heroes All-Stars with a plate of their own on the wall. They’ve already come in 10 times this year and have prepared Mexican and Italian dinners as well as baked goods and brunch. We are so thankful for their commitment to our mission and look forward to see what they whip up next!
When you meet Asher, the first thing you notice is his big smile and the cute laugh that leaves it. “He likes to smile at the girls,” his mom Kendra says. “He’s such a little flirt already.”
What you may notice next are the wires attached to his stroller and the beeping of a machine that sits at the bottom of it, or the mask that wraps around his face to help him breathe.
“Asher hasn’t followed the normal path of anything,” Kendra says.
Just six weeks after he was born, Asher was placed on the transplant list to wait for a new heart. After a prenatal ultrasound, he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy when his doctor noticed something unusual about his heart.
While Asher waited for his second chance at life, he went into end stage heart failure and his kidneys and liver began to shut down. His doctors emergently placed him on a Berlin heart to keep him alive until a new heart became available. Surprisingly, on what was only supposed to keep his heart beating until he could receive a transplant, Asher thrived.
“He began doing normal baby things,” Kendra says. “He jumped from 10 to 15 pounds and became so much more expressive. He would smile and laugh while he watched people in the hospital.”
The day finally came when Asher and Kendra received news that he would receive his new heart. Asher received his precious gift of life because of a brave family’s decision–a decision that saved his life.
Unfortunately, Asher suffered some complications from his surgery. Within 10 days of his transplant, he underwent another major surgery.
“Asher was intubated in the hospital for the first month after his transplant,” Kendra says. “He was full of fluid and non-expressive…just not himself. It was so hard to go through that and think that I may have to say goodbye to my child.”
Thankfully, Asher made it through his second surgery. When he was finally able to leave the hospital’s care, the Howie’s House became Asher’s first home.
“I love that the Howie’s House is so clean and that it’s safe for immunosuppressed patients like Asher,” Kendra says. “Dinner is always made every night, which is wonderful. The last thing I want to do is cook when I get back from the hospital. It’s also so family-oriented. It was so easy for me to be a mom spending time with my children.”
While Kendra takes care of Asher, her family, including her father and other two children, come down to spend time with them on the weekends.
“One day we sat down in the Activity Center and watched movies all day,” she says. “We also eat dinner together in the garden and go on walks. We even went to a festival at one of the parks nearby.”
At the Howie’s House, Kendra is also able to take care of herself. She takes bubble baths in her private bathroom, uses the gym, reads in the library, sits outside, and participates in the evening activities with her daughter.
She also spends time talking to other families about their transplant care. She even learned that some of them are on the same medication as Asher. “Learning from [the other transplant families] gives me hope,” she says. “I’m less stressed because there are so many people to talk to. I didn’t realize how nice that’d be.”
Asher has recovered so well that he and his family were recently able to go back to their own home, but plan to return to the Howie’s House for their follow-up appointments.
“I know Asher may need more care in the future,” Kendra says. “And I’m just thankful that the Howie’s House exists.”
On Friday, May 17, 2019 our colleagues from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital joined us at the Howie’s House for a special luncheon to celebrate an amazing milestone in our partnership—a $250,000 pledge from their hospital to support the Howie’s House mission. As part of this pledge, Jefferson Hospital underwrote our “Family Community Center” on the lower level of the Howie’s House, which includes our laundry and fitness facilities, salon, Volunteer Center, and Activity Center.
During the luncheon, special remarks were made by Richard Webster, President of Jefferson Hospital, Howard M. Nathan, Founder and President of Gift of Life Howie’s House, and Ed Carman, a liver and kidney recipient treated at Jefferson and former Howie’s House guest. Following the program was a ceremony to unveil the “Family Community Center” plaque in Jefferson’s name.
“Jefferson saved my life and I will always be thankful for that,” Ed said during the event. “While I was staying [at the hospital], my wife had a safe place here, and a caring place here. I didn’t have to worry about that for her. I knew she was OK.”
Jefferson was the first transplant center to financially support the Howie’s House. In their first pledge, they underwrote the Howie’s House’s dining area where families can meet and connect over their experiences while sharing a warm, home-cooked meal.
“I feel committed to the Howie’s House because I see the impact it has across the community,” said Mr. Webster. “We are so fortunate that it’s here for our patients.”
Mr. Webster, Ed, and his wife, Gail, were also presented with the Howie’s House challenge coin, which is a token of thanks given to members of our community who represent values we hold dear, including family, community, compassion, generosity, service, and commitment.
Through their compassion, commitment, generosity, and service to our mission, our colleagues at Jefferson Hospital have made incredible efforts to strengthen patients, families, and the transplant community. We are so thankful for their support!
After the event, Jefferson Hospital staff participated in a team-building baking competition in the Howie’s House kitchen as part of our Home Cook Heroes Program. We have had more Home Cook Hero volunteers from Jefferson Hospital than any other hospital in our region—just another way Jefferson demonstrates their loyalty and commitment to our mission.
We are so thankful for our partnership with them!
When Donna Jones was diagnosed with three different, simultaneous lung infections, the mother of four found herself in need of her children’s care and a “home away from home.”
“I’ve always been a very active mom and grandmother,” Donna says. “But as I got sicker and sicker, I was really grateful to have them be there for me.”
As Donna’s condition worsened, her daughter Nicole and her siblings decided together it would be best for their mom to have someone stay with and care for her. Nicole offered to move in with her mom and help take care of her, her pets, and her house.
Donna suffered a collapsed lung in 2012 and was able to recover well. Although she was moving more slowly than she was used to, she was able to attend three of her children’s weddings and continue working from home as an IT consultant.
Tragedy struck again on New Year’s Eve in 2015 when Donna suffered another collapsed lung. This time, her doctors suggested she consider a lung transplant. She was listed in 2017. Donna would remain on oxygen and require around the clock care until an organ became available for her.
Thankfully, Nicole was able to be by her mom’s side.
Donna received “the call” that a donor organ had become available in December of 2018 and together, she and Nicole quickly left their home in Maryland to get to Philadelphia. As soon as they arrived at the hospital, Donna was immediately taken to surgery to receive her precious gift of life. Nicole reassured her siblings: “I got mom,” she said.
Two of Donna’s other three children were able to arrive in Philadelphia following the procedure.
After her transplant, Donna spent 21 days in the ICU and 18 days in inpatient therapy. Afterwards, she and Nicole came to stay at Gift of Life Howie’s House so she could remain close to her doctors.
“I would recommend this place to anyone—it’s a comforting and loving environment,” Nicole says. “You get to talk to people at all points in the transplant journey.”
Although Nicole was the only one of Donna’s children to stay with her at the Howie’s House, the others felt so comforted knowing that their mother had a safe place to stay.
“I sent them photos and took them on a video tour,” Nicole says. “Instantly, they all felt at ease knowing mom and I were okay.”
“You make a family here,” Donna adds. “We all exchange phone numbers. You learn from others. You encourage them. You can really feel the love.”
Although all of Donna’s children could not be at her side as Nicole was, they all supported their mother in different ways. While she was in the ICU after her transplant, they visited and brought her grandchildren down to keep her company.
To help her grandson understand what happened to his grandmother, one of Donna’s daughters wrote the children’s book “My Nonna’s Boo Boo” to teach him about her lung transplant.
Donna’s transplant journey brought her and her children closer together. “This was a very emotional journey,” Nicole says. “I don’t regret anything, especially if it means that I can have my mom around. I just want her to get back to the person she misses being.”
“I am so grateful to have Nicole in my life,” Donna says. “She does everything for me. I am so blessed.”
Here at the Howie’s House, mothers and daughters like Donna and Nicole can stay together and take care of each other while they navigate the difficult transplant journey. Other family members can also find comfort in knowing their loved one has a safe place to stay during a stressful time. Donna was able to recover after receiving her precious gift of life from an incredibly selfless donor and Nicole was not only able to take care of her, but find the comfort and support she needed as her mom’s caregiver, too.
This Mother’s Day, you can honor a special mother, sister, or woman in your life by making a gift to support the Howie’s House, a “home away from home” to many mothers and daughters like Donna and Nicole. Consider honoring someone all year along by making a monthly gift. Our Welcome Home Club for monthly giving helps make sure patients and their families have a safe, supportive space to return to at the end of each day—all year round.
Make Your Gift Here!
News & Events
Shannon’s Journey from Transplant Caregiver to Howie's House Intern
A former intern shares her Howie's House experience and special connection to organ donation.
#SupporterSpotlight: Independent Order of Odd Fellows New Jersey
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows NJ has generously sponsored the Howie's House shuttle program!
#VolunteerSpotlight: Team Shea
Theresa signed up to cook meals at the Howie's House in memory of her co-worker's grandaughter, Shea
Love Brings "Liver Sisters" Together
Ashley decided to donate a portion of her liver to a member of her church.
#VolunteerSpotlight: MTF Biologics
MTF Biologics has been spending a lot of time in our kitchen cooking meals for transplant families.
Hand Prints of Hope
NASRCAR's Joey Gase visited the Howie's House to help raise awareness of organ and tissue donation.
My First Home was Gift of Life Howie's House
When he was finally able to leave the hospital's care, the Howie's House became Asher's first home.
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